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The Ascension of the Lord

Forty-two years ago, in the springtime of my monastic journey, my Father Master — he must have been all of 34 at the time — told me that of all the festivals of the Church Year none was more intrinsically contemplative than the Ascension of the Lord. He spoke to me of the virtue of hope, calling it the most monastic of virtues, and meditated with me on the Vespers hymn of the Ascension, the incomparable Fourth Mode, Jesu, Nostra Redemptio. The melody is perfectly suited to the text. It has been, in some way, the musical accompaniment to my monastic journey with its sorrows and joys, with its valleys of darkness and glimmers of light. It expresses better than any other hymn the prayer of yearning by which, already here and now, a monk can hope to be united to his love and his desire. I translated the metred Latin text into prose.

Jesu, nostra redemptio,
Amor et desiderium,
Deus Creator omnium,
Homo in fine temporum.

O Jesus, our redemption,
our love, and our desire,
God, Creator of all things,
become Man in the fullness of time.

Quae te vicit clementia,
Ut ferres nostra crimina,
Crudelem mortem patiens,,
Ut nos a morte tolleres!

What tender love, what pity
compelled Thee to bear our crimes,
to suffer a cruel death
that we, from death, might be saved?

Inferni claustra penetrans,
Tuos captivos redimens,
Victor triumpho nobili
Ad dextram Patris residens:

Into death’s dark cloister didst Thou descend,
and from it captives free didst bring;
Thy triumph won, Thou didst take Thy place,
Thou, the Victor, at the Father’s right.

Ipse te cogat pietas,
Ut mala nostra superes,
Parcendo, et voti compotes
Nos tuo vultu saties.

‘Twas a tender love, a costly compassion
that pressed Thee our sorrows to bear;
granting pardon, Thou didst raise us up
to fill us full with the splendour of Thy face.

Tu esto nostrum gaudium,
Qui es futurus praemium:
Sit nostra in te gloria
Per cuncta semper saecula.

Thou art already the joy of all our days,
Thou Who in eternity will be our prize;
let all our glory be in Thee,
forever, and always, and in the age to come.